free html hit counter

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

So long for now, Andrew

Today I said goodbye to someone who was one of my best friends. I can say that with confidence because I don't think Andrew had any other kind of friend. He was blessed with the gift of meeting people, finding connections with them, and forming deep, lasting bonds almost immediately. And once he befriended someone, that friendship was deep and lifelong.

We worked together for ten years at SOAPware, and we remained close and in contact since I left there in 2010. If he could make good friends in minutes, everyone who knew him longer can attest to how deeply he'd befriend people over a matter of years.

Like me, he was a proud Eagle Scout -- just one of many things we learned that we had in common -- and I always appreciated his Boy Scout attitude toward life. Not just the way he approached it with honesty and integrity, but the way he seemed to treat it like the ultimate merit badge course. He had a greater ability to apply himself and learn new skills than anyone I've ever known, and once something piqued his interest, he would immerse himself in it until he'd practically mastered it. At that point, I think he often felt like he'd "earned the merit badge," so to speak, and he'd move on to the next challenge. Sometimes, though, he'd stick with it and make it a real part of himself, like with photography or woodworking, and keep improving and growing.

I was always really impressed and inspired by his ability to do that. I'm glad that's something I told him when I had the chance.

Programming is a great example. Sometime before I met him, he taught himself Visual Basic from scratch so he could track his books, CDs, and DVDs. While he was at SOAPware he learned everything that got thrown at him, from database administration to Wordpress to web design, usually without anything but some books and the internet to help him. As soon as the iOS App Store opened, he jumped in and taught himself iOS development, which was a pretty daunting task, especially back then. I don't know for sure, but there's a good chance he was the first developer in Arkansas to publish an iOS app. Later on, he and I worked together to make iHog, the UA's first mobile app. It was a challenge to be sure, but working with Andrew was one of the best collaborative experiences I've ever had, and those are memories I've always treasured.

Andrew and I also co-founded the NWA CocoaHeads, the local Apple developers group. I wasn't entirely sure I was up to starting a user group, but in classic Andrew style, he encouraged me to just jump in and figure it out as we went alone.

It's no exaggeration to say that the skills I learned and connections I made through those projects and groups -- thanks in large part to Andrew -- have shaped, and will continue to shape, the course of my life ever since.

He was also one of the most giving people I've ever known. I don't know if there was anything he enjoyed more than sharing his knowledge and skills with friends. And his knowledge spanned a truly surprising range of topics! They say you can tell when food was prepared with love, and so it was with a gift from Andrew. Each and every one was selected, prepared, and given with love, whether it was a photo, a bottle of homemade beer, custom cut cabinetry, or a cheesy Gandalf action figure. Or instructions. Or advice. Or comfort. Not too long ago I was talking with him about a personal struggle, and I said, "I know you're not big into praying, but I can sure use some positive thoughts." He replied, "There's some stuff I'll pray for." And I'm sure he did.

He probably embodied the good parts of the Barney Stinson approach to life better than anyone I know:  When you're uncertain or scared or sick or hurting or anything else negative, just stop and be awesome instead.

For all of us who knew him, I think that's the best way to honor his life and memory:  Be awesome.

Try new things. Have confidence in yourself. Work hard. Stick to it. Think big. Go all in. Love each other. Give.

That's the recipe for Awesome Sauce.

Andrew, we're all going to miss you, but every time you inspire us to do more and be better than we thought we could, we'll know you're still with us.

Catch you later, duder. May the Force be with you...always.